t was a shame, really, because this could have been a sweet couple of days. His resurrection project of the woeful Nets was way ahead of schedule. Earlier in the week, they had gone 10 games over .500 for the first time in six years. Picked for seventh among seven teams in the Atlantic Division by Sports Illustrated, the Nets had edged into second place with the season two-thirds gone.
On top of that, Calipari and general manager John Nash had just pulled their third blockbuster trade in a year and a half. On Thursday night, just moments before the trading deadline, they had seemingly filled a major gap by acquiring center Rony Seikaly from the Orlando Magic. Though temporarily sidelined with a foot injury, Seikaly was a career 15-point-per-game scorer, a definite presence in the post. What's more, the Nets had not had to relinquish any of their top eight players, Calipari's so-called "core," in the deal. In the immediate aftermath, the move was hailed by the New York media. On WFAN, the all-sports radio station, calls flooded in on Thursday night.
"That Calipari, he's doing some job," said Brett in Garden City.
"It's just exciting as a New Jersey Nets fan to finally have something to look forward to," said Mike in Hackensack.
"I don't know how you pulled this off," said host Suzyn Waldman, beginning her interview with the man of the hour.
The deal hit the back page of New York City tabloids on Friday morning. Here, for a moment anyway, with football out of season, baseball in the early stages of spring training, the Rangers having a crummy year, the Knicks struggling to make their way without injured star Patrick Ewing...the New Jersey Nets were the biggest sports story in the metropolitan area.
This should have been a weekend to strut. On Friday and Saturday the Nets had two games at home, where they owned a 19-6 record. Two games before big crowds, filled with the excitement of a team finally on the rise. Two eminently beatable opponents, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had lost three in a row and six of seven, and the Philadelphia 76ers, owners of a 16-34 record. These were two more rungs on the ladder, two more steps toward Calipari's Great Turnaround.
Friday night he was ferocious. He was off the bench early, coaching every play, screaming, exhorting, glaring, trying to wring every ounce of effort from his players. For whatever reason, they didn't respond. "We just didn't have the energy tonight," Calipari said after a 109-95 loss. "During some of the plays, I said to myself, 'What are they thinking?' We did not play well. I actually had a hard time coaching this game, harder than any other game this season. At times, I was so angry."
Then Saturday, before a full house, things got worse. The Nets somehow fell behind by 15 points to the Sixers in the first quarter. Calipari was off the bench before the game was a minute old. He stamped and seethed and reached for the heavens. He picked up a technical foul. The Nets finally cut the lead to one point midway through the fourth quarter, then ran out of gas. Moments later, after a questionable foul call against guard Kerry Kittles, Calipari finally returned to his seat, almost falling over backwards in disbelief and disappointment. Fans streamed for the exits. The arena grew quiet. The Nets lost, 98-89.
Now at the podium for his post-game press conference, Calipari fills the room with aphorism. "Crisis is about change," he says, "and we're in a mini-crisis. The crisis is that we've embraced success. We've forgotten that defense was the staple that won games for us. I talked about it before the game. They didn't want to believe me. They think we can go out and score. We're a bad shooting team. Bad, bad, bad ..."
The signs of wear on the second-year coach are hard to discern. His speech is rapid-fire, filled with defiance. Outside of a couple of furrows above his eyebrows, the skin on his face is still taut, resilient, like the man himself. Maybe there is a sign or two in his hair, the very first highlights of gray, almost imperceptible, and the ever-so-slight frizzing, the sense of heat rising, that used to come after the toughest of losses at the University of Massachusetts. But the hair is still dark and thick.
At 39, Calipari still looks much younger. He still burns with white-hot ambition. He is still charismatic and combative, charming, and occasionally ruthless. His ferocity has helped spur his team to unexpected heights, but it has also had some undesirable effects. It has turned off some of his players. It has been lampooned by the New York media. It has led to his getting fined twice by the league: once, infamously, last season for a racially tinged insult of a reporter, and then just last week for cursing a fan during a game with the Miami Heat. (During these two seasons, the NBA has levied a total of seven fines on coaches, and only Darrell Walker of Toronto - who recently resigned under pressure - also picked up two.)
In the rare quiet moment, he admits, the job of being the Nets coach, the job, moreover, of being John Calipari, can be exhausting. He reiterates a statement he occasionally made at UMass about expecting to give up coaching at age 45. All the attendant pressures of his life, from without and within, exact a toll. Yes, he's made some great strides. Sure, he understands that the NBA's Rome wasn't built in a season or two, that some degree of patience is necessary. But still, there is that unquenchable yearning to, in the description of his top assistant coach, Don Casey, "get there yesterday."
As Calipari parts from the media, walks down a corridor and put his arms on the shoulder of Sixers coach Larry Brown - his truest mentor in the league - the Nets coach smiles sadly. In his hard brown eyes, one thing seems clear.
He's not there yet.
Pioneeer Valley legacy
When he abruptly departed from the Pioneer Valley in June of 1996, John Calipari left behind a colorful legacy.
The turnaround that he orchestrated at UMass was, by any standard, a remarkable achievement. Celtics coach Rick Pitino once opined that Calipari's work with the Minutemen was "the greatest building job in college basketball history." Inheriting a program that had endured 10 straight losing years - a program that would be ranked 259th of 267 Division I schools in the '80s - Calipari built a national power. He had an undeniable gift, at least at the college level, for eliciting the very best from his players. They played with an urgent grit, embodying Calipari's team slogan of "Refuse to Lose." As testimony to the coach's skills, UMass rose to the elite despite sending only two players, Lou Roe and Marcus Camby, to the NBA in Calipari's eight years. (And Roe is out of the league after just two seasons of bench-warming status.) UMass spent significant portions of two years ranked No. 1 in the nation, becoming the first New England team ever to reach that spot in the 45-year history of the AP poll. In 1995-96, the Minutemen put together a true season for the ages. They ran off 26 wins in a row to start the year, making a serious run at the first undefeated season in Division I in 20 years. They finished 35-2, making it to the Holy Grail of college hoop, the Final Four, before losing a bitter battle to a superstar-studded Kentucky team coached by Pitino that wound up winning the national title.
Calipari's success at UMass, of course, was accompanied by plenty of controversy. Some felt that the coach was too slick, too greedy, too fierce. If the famed John Chaney Incident is remembered mostly as an example of the Temple coach losing control, it also demonstrated the sort of rage that Calipari was capable of evoking. If the Boston Globe grades story was an unfair invasion of privacy and a debatable reflection of UMass' commitment to academics, it also raised questions about the program's priorities. Calipari's critics seized on his marketing of "Refuse to Lose" when it came out that he had appropriated the slogan from others, and trademarked it. They felt that his donations to the school library were mere show, that his so-called "aggressive counseling" of players went over the line, that his much-touted emphasis on "teaching life skills" was a crock. And, of course, when the golden 1995-96 season was tarnished by Marcus Camby's admission that he accepted illegal gifts from agents, there were people, fairly or not, who felt that Calipari deserved a share of the blame.
For years to come, some folks will believe that Calipari was undeservedly deified at UMass. Others will contend that he was undeservedly vilified.
But if there were questions surrounding his departure from UMass, there were even more questions about his arrival in New Jersey:
* Why the Nets?
Few teams in professional sports can match the long-standing futility of the Nets. In their 22-year history in the NBA, they have had only six winning seasons. In a league where a solid majority of teams make the playoffs, the Nets have qualified for postseason play only nine times. They have won exactly one playoff series. The Nets' poor performance on the court has been trumped only by their mismanagement off the court. This was a team, after all, that sold Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers just days before opening its debut season, a veritable basketball equivalent of the Red Sox accursed sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Since then there have been a series of poor drafts and lousy trades. There's been tragedy, the car accident that killed popular star Drazen Petrovic in 1993. And there's been the ever-present shadow cast by the New York Knicks, hogging the attention of the metropolitan area. The Knicks are Spike Lee sitting in his courtside seat, rooting on Patrick Ewing at Madison Square Garden. The Nets are Average Joe booing Dwayne Schintzius at the Meadowlands.
Calipari was lured in part by a startling offer from Nets management, one that sent jaws dropping among NBA coaches. Not only was he given a $15 million package over five years (second at the time only to Pat Riley of the Miami Heat), he was also given full control over player personnel in his ancillary title as "executive vice president." He would have final say on any players traded, drafted or released - a power that almost no other coach in the league enjoyed.
Contractual enticements aside, Calipari knew that the Nets were a good fit for him. Like UMass, this was a team with a bleak history and low expectations. But although they played right off the Jersey Turnpike in an arena often called "The Swamp," just to the east, the entire sweep of New York City skyline beckoned. With the Knicks stars - Ewing, Charles Oakley and John Starks - beginning to age, and with their coach the intense but uncharismatic Jeff Van Gundy, the opportunity was there, in time, for Calipari to be king.
* Could he really coach in the NBA?
Yes, he'd taken UMass to the top, but how well would that translate in the pro game? In part, the question was open because of his utter lack of NBA experience. Alone among the league's 29 coaches, he had never spent a single day in the NBA as a player or an assistant coach. Further, his style was so intense, so confrontational, so in-your-face. How would that play with millionaire adults? Conventional wisdom said that coaches are the stars of the college game, while the NBA is a player's league. Could Calipari subjugate his own ego enough to succeed? Would he have to tone down his emotional approach? Could he?
Instantly, Calipari set out to hire people who were "strong in areas where I'm weak." He tapped 59-year-old Don Casey from the Celtics bench as his top assistant. An affable man with silvery brown hair and heavy-lidded eyes, Casey had served as an assistant for three NBA teams, and briefly as head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. For general manager, Calipari hired respected NBA veteran John Nash, who had served in that capacity for the Washington Bullets and Philadelphia 76ers. As for his players, Calipari planned to treat them as adults, but he wasn't about to change his style. "I'm not adapting myself to the old Nets," he said. "They're adapting themselves to me."
* How would he handle the losing?
He had become accustomed to such a high level of success at UMass. Indeed, in his last three years, his team had won 92 games, more than any college program in America. With the Nets he was saddled primarily with second-tier players, who, given their druthers, would not be playing in New Jersey. Many were tied up in long-term contracts. Some had reputations for a lukewarm work ethic. They were not guys that Calipari picked himself, unlike at UMass. The Nets had gone just 30-52 in each of the last two years, and the prospects for significant improvement did not look bright. How would he cope?
He pointed out that his first year at UMass had been a huge struggle, a 10-18 season marked by his two top returning players being kicked off the team after getting arrested for burglary. With the Nets, as with the Minutemen, lots of people were convinced that he could never build a power, that there were too many obstacles to success. His answer was simple. He talked incessantly about "changing the culture" of the team. That meant a lot of different things, but one above all.
He wasn't planning on losing for long.
Disastrous first year
In some ways, Calipari's first year was a disaster.
Across virtually all important constituencies, the savior coach was greeted with skepticism. Among other head coaches, Don Casey says, "cages were rattled" by Calipari's contract and control with the Nets. Though several rivals would ultimately use his package to leverage far better deals for themselves, the initial resentment was close to the surface. NBA coaches obviously want to win anyway, Casey points out, but they seemed to particularly relish beating the Nets. And to be sure, that was not very difficult to do.
Fans were impatient. Calipari was accustomed to the pliant UMass crowd that he used to prod on the PA system whenever things got too rowdy, telling them that they were "the greatest fans in America" and urging them to "show some class." Inevitably they listened. With the Nets it would be a far harder sell. The first home game of the Calipari era, amid fireworks and red carpets, proved to be a shoddy showing. To the coach's shock, the fans were booing.
He had hoped to court the media with his charm and syrupy speech, but not everyone was smitten. Even before the season began, the New York Times ran a story about the frustration of some Net players with the coach's methods. In mid-season, the Times referred to him as a "master manipulator." He was described in various newspaper stories as "caffeinated," "apoplectic" and "immature." Certain writers, Calipari contends, came in with an agenda. "They wanted to prove that I could not coach in this league, and that a college coach shouldn't be coaching in the NBA," he says. "Every story that they wrote was geared toward that."
Most of all, he struggled with the response from his team. When he got the job, Calipari left a phone message with each of the players on the roster; according to Sports Illustrated, only two of them returned the call. He sparred openly with people like Khalid Reeves and Robert Pack. And while emotional exchanges with players in the heat of a game were nothing new - people like Roe and Camby shouted back at Calipari on a couple of occasions at UMass - he was not accustomed to public criticism from within his ranks.
In February, Pack said about the coach's style, "It tears you down. When you make a mistake, it's a constant diet of yelling and cursing. And you're out there, a grown man, and he's screaming at you like a child. That's the part guys can't take." The team's star, Jayson Williams, questioned Calipari in print on a couple of occasions, then stopped talking to him for months after getting injured. In June, GQ published Williams' basketball diary, which portrayed the coach as being emotionally erratic and egotistical. "Any NBA coach who thinks he's the (expletive) is going to have problems," Williams wrote. "And right now you've got a guy, Calipari, who thinks it's about the coaches and not about the players."
He maintained a strong public face, but privately the year was wearing him down. Former San Antonio Spurs coach Bob Hill, one of Calipari's main mentors, has said that the first-year coach sometimes called and lamented, "I've made a mistake. What should I do?" Team president Michael Rowe maintains that Calipari was often working "20 hours a day." Don Casey says that Calipari was trying to take everything on, trying to learn as much about the NBA as possible, trying to coach every play. "There are a lot of plays in an NBA game," he says. "He was becoming a bit frazzled."
The stress spilled over in the season's most publicized and humiliating event, in March, when Calipari lashed out at Newark Star-Ledger beat writer Dan Garcia, calling him a "(expletive) Mexican idiot." There had been significant friction between the two men for quite a while, other media members say. And yes, Garcia lost much public sympathy when he sued the Nets coach for $5 million for "intentionally causing emotional distress." (The suit was dismissed by a state judge.) But no matter. The gaffe by Calipari proved costly. The record $25,000 fine he incurred from the league was nothing compared to the avalanche of bad publicity. Selena Roberts of the Times, who, like Garcia, is no longer on the Nets beat, wrote, "His untethered emotion and immaturity caught many players and some organizational members off guard. It was this behavior that would eventually embarrass the franchise in an incident that unveiled how thin-skinned Calipari could appear." Later, Mike Lupica in Esquire handed out one of his "Rodman Awards" for "outstanding achievement in sports obnoxiousness" to Calipari. "Hey, Coach," Lupica wrote, "Garcia didn't choose to cover your team, but you chose to coach 'em. So who comes out looking like, well, the idiot here? Take the Rodman - it's the only trophy you're likely to win before the Nets say adios."
To this day, Calipari is mortified by the Garcia incident. "I handled the situation very poorly," he says. "Obviously it's not politically correct, and it was wrong. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't. I apologized three times the moment I did it."
The incident was especially surprising for two reasons. For one, the racist implications were, even Calipari's harshest critics concede, completely out of character. More surprising still was the lapse in judgment around public relations. Few coaches anywhere have a more sophisticated sense of the need for good PR than this former marketing major. Over and over again at UMass, he publicly touted the importance of "image and perception." This, he knew, would not look good.
The long year ended with a 26-56 record. Before the season finale, Calipari admitted, "I've never been so exhausted, mentally and physically."
Seeds of success
But amid the wreckage, Calipari had sown the seeds of success. While the wins were not there, there was an intangible feeling that the team was playing harder. The Nets led the league in that most hustle-oriented of categories, offensive rebounding. (Doubters might suggest that the Nets had more opportunities because they missed more shots, but they also led the league in offensive rebounding percentage, that is, the ratio of missed shots that are reclaimed.) Jayson Williams, for all the tension with Calipari, had put together by far his best effort in a seven-year career, averaging 13.4 points and 13.5 rebounds before season-ending thumb surgery. Moreover, he played with as much emotion and feistiness as anyone in the league, qualities Calipari prized. Kendall Gill also had a "career year," averaging almost 22 points per game. They seemed like a couple of players to build a team around.
Calipari had also begun his remake of the Nets' image. To get competitive and stay competitive, he knew he had to both retain top talent, and attract new stars, people who wanted to play for the Nets - something that had almost never been true in the past. Calipari convinced team president Michael Rowe that part of this recruiting drive involved improving facilities. So the locker room was modernized. The room for players' wives and families was expanded. Construction began on a state-of-the art practice site to replace the embarrassingly second-class facilities they had used for years: at Ramapo College in Mahwah, and at the APA Trucking Recreation Center in North Bergen.
In the summer of 1997, the team unveiled a new logo, a Saturn-like ring around a basketball on a Nets shield.
The words "New Jersey" were placed on the Nets' road uniforms for the first time, Calipari staking out the underdog role he so covets. The coach knew that many fans in the Garden State were put off by the football Giants and Jets playing their home games in the same Meadowlands complex, yet continuing to refer to themselves as "New York" teams. Only the Nets and the NHL's Devils carried New Jersey's name. "We want to be New Jersey's team," Calipari crowed. "We want to create a love affair with the fans of New Jersey."
The peripherals, though, would never be enough to transform the Nets from laughingstock to rising stock. "In the end," says Michael Rowe, "you have to have a product."
Simply put, the Nets needed better players. Usually rebuilding in the NBA is an arduous process. If a team is lucky, the draft will yield one excellent player a year. Top-of-the-line free agents seldom go to weak teams or small-market franchises. Big trades are rare. Hence, it's hard to crack the firmament.
But Calipari and Nash had taken a giant leap forward with an exceedingly rare nine-player trade with Dallas in February. In some sense, perhaps, they got lucky, because Mavericks coach/general manager Don Nelson wanted to clean house on a team that he inherited the previous week. In any event, the trade succeeded on many fronts for the Nets. It improved the team on the court, notably adding Sam Cassell, Chris Gatling and Jim Jackson. It purged some of Calipari's biggest migraines in Robert Pack, Khalid Reeves and, to a lesser degree, Shawn Bradley. It also opened up some salary-cap room down the road for free-agent acquisitions.
Four months later the Nets struck again, with an eight-player deal with Philadelphia right after the NBA draft. The key acquisition here was the No. 2 player in the draft, Keith Van Horn, a star in the making.
They were shrewd moves, startlingly so for a franchise like the Nets. It's not as if they had become a title contender - as the last-place prediction in SI attested - but few teams in NBA history had reinvented themselves so quickly. They had better talent, and what quickly emerged as much better chemistry. They were poised to plunge into year two of the Calipari Era.
Locker room scenes
On a recent Saturday night, an hour and a half before game time, the Nets' plush locker room is a low-key place. Rony Seikaly's pager goes off, a couple of shrill beeps, but the team's newest acquisition is not there to get the message. Beneath Jayson Williams' locker, the team's most charismatic presence has kiddingly put some of his eight pairs of basketball shoes on sale. In the front of the room, a tape of the last Nets-76ers game plays silently on a large screen. Next to it, on a clear white board, John Calipari has scrawled in markers of three colors, in capital letters, long lists of offensive and defensive strategies and various "keys" like "ANTICIPATE ROTATIONS" and "FRONT THE POST."
Chris Gatling, a burly 6-foot-10-inch frontcourt player, sits at his locker, spreading some Pathmark Creamy Skin Lotion with Cocoa Butter into one of his beefy hands. Asked about the difference in Calipari this year, he shrugs his shoulders. "He's still the same screamer, always screaming and yelling," he says. "That's just his coaching style." In the past, he admits, some people didn't like "all that yelling and crazy stuff. But that's Cal. It's his boat. If you don't like it, get off."
This team apparently likes it. The proof, says Don MacLean, a six-year veteran of four NBA clubs, is in the winning. "He gets guys to play," MacLean says. "That should be the main focus of every NBA coach, and he does it better than any coach I've ever played for."
Recently point guard Sam Cassell, who openly jaws with Calipari during some games, described him to Sports Illustrated as "the perfect player's coach."
Most people around the Nets say that Calipari has calmed down this year, growing more comfortable with his role as an NBA coach. Team president Michael Rowe kids, "I think his shoe leather is lasting longer." General manager John Nash says that Calipari is "gaining an appreciation for when it's appropriate to back off."
Calipari says that coaching is easier this year, that he knows the league far better. He also maintains that he has a better understanding of working with NBA players. "It's man to man," he says. "I've got a job to do, you've got a job to do: Let's do it. But am I still emotional? Yeah. Am I into every play of every game? Oh, I am. Do I still want to win in the worst way? Oh yes. I have not changed that."
And for the first time in a long time, the Nets are winning. Their team is young and hungry, full of feist and hustle. Again, the Nets stand atop the league's 29 teams in offensive rebounding. The success has provided Calipari with some measure of vindication. "You know what makes me laugh?" he says. "(The people who say,) 'You can't do it like you did it.' Well, I'm doing it like I did it."
The most radical change of all is the fact that New Jersey has become, for some players, a desired address. Only two players - Kendall Gill and Jayson Williams - remain from the pre-Calipari days, a near-complete overhaul, but the people on the current roster seem to want to stay. Gill was openly relieved when the trading deadline passed, and he was not dealt. Williams, who has both buried the hatchet with Calipari and become an all-star for the first time in his career, has stated his hopes to remain with the team after his contract runs out at the end of the season. And before the trade from Orlando, Rony Seikaly made it known to his agent that New Jersey was one of the two places in the league he wanted to go.
"The most important thing is that this is an up-and-coming team," Seikaly said. "There's no doubt about that. This is a team that has a chance to win. I don't know if (Calipari's) a magician or a miracle maker, but he's definitely turned this franchise around. I can't remember the last time when everybody wanted to be a New Jersey Net."
To be sure, some of that has to be written off as a new player wanting to make a good impression. Indeed, there are lots of people who don't want to be New Jersey Nets. Marquee free agents haven't exactly been beating the door down. Before the trading deadline, quality point guards Damon Stoudamire and Anfernee Hardaway each let it be known that they didn't want to come to the Nets, in part because of Calipari's reputation as a screamer.
And the winning, of course, is a precarious thing. The Nets have yet to crack the league's elite. Recently they have suffered some key injuries and lost a series of vexing games with fourth-quarter collapses. As the season approaches its final month, they are a borderline playoff team. For now, they have merely gone from pathetic to fairly good. That's a big jump. There's a long way to go.
In a decade, coaching comet
Ten years ago next month, a little-known 29-year-old named John Vincent Calipari accepted the job as head basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts. In the decade since, he has been a coaching comet, blazing across the sky.
He hasn't forgotten his roots. In each of his seasons with the Nets, he has squeezed a UMass game into his schedule. Two or three times a week he and Minuteman coach Bruiser Flint talk on the phone. In November, around the edges of a game in Boston on Friday night, a game at home on Saturday night and a flight out to San Francisco on Monday, he managed to come back to western Massachusetts on Sunday morning to attend the funeral of Milton Cole - the former Gazette sports editor who covered him in his early days.
But it would be wrong to say that Calipari is nostalgic. This is not a sentimental man. He doesn't look in the rear-view mirror; his foot is on the gas. After some of his greatest wins at UMass, knocking off No. 1 teams North Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky, for instance, he often seemed strangely subdued. The game, the big challenge, was over, and there seemed to be - paradoxically - a sense of loss.
Last month, on his 39th birthday, Calipari got a card from his assistant coaches. One of them wrote that the coach would still be doddering up the sidelines at age 65.
"I laugh," Calipari says. "I won't be. Not because I don't enjoy this. I do. It's just, if you knew what I went through these last two weeks, through these trade talks and having to make these decisions, your head's pounding. The pace that we go..."
It's a stressful job, no doubt, trying to win in an ultracompetitive, high-profile world. Coaching carries its trappings - financially he is set for life - but it also has its traps. Since his first job as an unpaid assistant at Kansas in 1982, Calipari has seen both increasing limelight and increasing glare. "I've been under a magnifying glass for 16 years of my life," he says. "After a while, it starts beating on you."
Home provides some measure of refuge. There is more time for his family now, he insists; no more recruiting trips or talks to alumni groups. His wife, Ellen, continues to be the rock of the family, he says. Daughters Erin and Megan, now 11 and 8, often have Shutesbury friends stay over during school vacations. And the man of the next generation, Bradley Calipari, is a placid 16-month-old, who sits on his dad's lap, watching tape of upcoming opponents and often cooing - John claims - when the ball goes through the hoop.
They live in a wooded section of Franklin Lakes in North Jersey, far from the turnpike, far from the fray. It's a big house on a cul de sac, but not ostentatious. Not gated. Not shrouded in high shrubs. Just quiet. Calipari says that in a year and a half on the job he has been to New York City eight times, four of them when he's played the Knicks. "I'm not a New York City guy," he says.
But hitting the highway and hurtling in to the Meadowlands, he can't help seeing the setting sun glowing off the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building. The world is out there for the taking. Calipari's pulse quickens. There's a game to be played.